ADDRESS-IN-REPLY

Mrs ARMITAGE (Launceston ) - Mr President, in response to the Governor's speech at the opening of the Forty-Eighth Parliament, I congratulate Premier Will Hodgman and the new Government on their election. The people spoke clearly that they had had enough of the Labor-Green experiment in Tasmania and wanted majority government. I congratulate the honourable member for Pembroke, Dr Goodwin, on being appointed Attorney-General, Minister for Justice, Minister for Corrections and Minister for the Arts, as well as Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council. I know the member will carry out her duties in an impeccable and collegial manner in this House. I welcome the honourable member for Huon, Mr Armstrong, to this place. I am sure he will find much support among members and enjoy his time here as he works hard for his constituents. Mention was made earlier of the Legislative Council being a retirement home for old mayors and deputy mayors. I believe that local government is an excellent grounding for parliament. Its members are generally community-minded, passionate people. I congratulate the honourable member for Rosevears on his return to this place. It is refreshing to see the Tasmanian community appreciate the independence of this place by electing independent members, as the Tasmanian Legislative Council is a true house of review. I found it really interesting last year when visiting Western Australia to be asked by a member of their Legislative Council, 'How on earth do you get anything accomplished with so many independent members in the upper House?' Before commenting on the new Government I commend the honourable member for Derwent, Mr Farrell, on the exemplary way he managed this Chamber as previous leader of the government and the high esteem in which he has been, and continues, to be held. No matter the subject matter or the bill to be debated, the member for Derwent was always respectful and considerate of his fellow members. One could almost think he was an independent. Mr Farrell - There were a few moments. Mrs ARMITAGE - The new Government certainly has a challenge ahead. Unemployment is high, money is short, and revitalising business confidence is a high priority. Health will be a major challenge for the new Government. The removal of funding for OneCare aged beds to take the pressure off the Launceston General Hospital bed block, for example, can only further cause elective surgery to be delayed. I look forward to learning more about the Liberal Government's $76 million public bail out money regarding the elective surgery blitz, as it is essential that category 1 patients, particularly, receive surgery as a priority and do not re-present at the Department of Emergency Medicine as emergencies. It is also pleasing to see that the Government intends to recruit new hospital staff to re-open and staff surgical beds around the state. It is well known that one of the main reasons elective surgery is not carried out is that there is often no bed for patients following their surgery, therefore only allowing day surgery to be performed. This leaves major category 1 patients on the list. The member for Windermere has already mentioned the dangers of leaving these urgent patients to languish on the list. Unfortunately, many patients on the waiting list who could be in hospital for a relatively short stay if their surgery is performed in a timely manner, on occasion are seen at the hospital as an urgent case, which then requires a much longer stay, sometimes in the critical care unit, and often with a worse morbidity outcome. Having said that, I applaud our Launceston General Hospital as the one THO that comes in on budget and is certainly working hard towards achieving outcomes. The Launceston General Hospital is without doubt the most efficient hospital in Tasmania. If we were to fall under one THO, the north of the state could well be disadvantaged as the structural inefficiencies at the North West Regional Hospital and the Royal Hobart Hospital would be averaged out across Tasmania. One state-wide THO would be a return to a DHHS Hobart-centric model under a different name. Obviously there can be collaboration, and costs savings through state-wide purchasing, but it has always been a fact that those on the ground in a particular area know best what is needed. I look forward to the noting and considering next week of the report on the delivery of health services in Tasmania. Health is an essential service and should be a government priority. The Government has made a commitment to ensuring Tasmania has the healthiest population in Australia by 2025. As they said, it is not good enough that Tasmanians have some of the poorest health outcomes in the country, and unless we improve these results we face a crisis of need treating preventable chronic disease. We must deliver health care in new ways, in the community and in the home, to reduce hospital demand with a range of innovative and proven out-of-hospital programs. The hospital in the home was one program that worked very well, particularly for cystic fibrosis patients, and it needs to be maintained. Another of the Government's initiatives is the home-grown workforce for the future, retaining our Tasmanian-trained nurses and doctors with the provision of a graduate year. It is essential that these doctors and nurses of the future are encouraged to stay in our state. I am very pleased that the Government will also begin a process to reinstate an internal shipping service to progressively pursue investment opportunities for the state. The Government has committed to promote Tasmania and its key competitive strengths of agriculture, aquaculture, mining, energy, forestry, tourism, international education and Antarctic affairs to our two largest trading partners. I now quote an article by Jan Davis of the TFGA, which I believe is relevant to some changes needed and proposed by the new Government. Jan Davis, on 26 March wrote: There is no doubt that Tasmanian farmers are over-governed and over regulated. Even the state government's own report 'Measuring Red Tape' study, released late last year, agreed that this was the case. The report documented some astounding figures. The gross value of production of agriculture, fishing and forestry in Tasmania is $1.982 billion, of which the agricultural sector accounts for $1.150 billion. The total cost of red tape for those three sectors of the industry is $321.4 million a year. That figuring is staggering enough as a standalone number, but it represents 16.2 percent of the value of production. It means that one dollar in every six at the farm/fishery/forest gate is lost on regulatory imposts, or simply meeting the cost of compliance. So, where agriculture, fisheries and forestry account for 10 percent of Tasmania's Gross State Product, they carry more than 25 percent of the total bill for compliance on this limited suite of measures. Even a very basic analysis shows that this study had a limited scope and that, by taking into account the areas that were not measured as part of the report, the actual cost could be double the reported estimate. Challenges to maintain competitiveness on farms are already substantial with the high Australian dollar and increased input prices driving a declining terms of trade. Tasmanian farmers face the added costs of our isolated location. The problem becomes compounded when unnecessary regulatory burdens are imposed on industry. This can arise in a number of ways, including through excessive regulatory coverage; overlap or inconsistency; unwieldy approval and licensing processes; heavy-handed regulators; poorly targeted measures; overly complex or prescriptive measures; excessive reporting requirements; or creation of perverse incentives. We have heard of some absolute doozies. For example, there's the farmer who was told his plastic igloos had to have planning permission as habitable dwellings because of their size. Or the farmers who want to straighten a boundary fence, and have been told they have to go through a full subdivision application - including a fire risk assessment. Then there's the requirement for farmers to lodge a map of planned use every time they re-register a vehicle for limited road use; despite the fact that the usage will not have changed for farmers as they would be accessing the same points on their property. Surely it would be easier to staple the map to the registration record and only require new lodgement if there has been a change. The list is as long as my arm. TFGA is of the view that, while there are a range of necessary regulatory imposts across the entire agricultural sector, it is the cumulative impact of the multitude of minor or peripheral regulations that underpin the industry concern. On their own, minor regulatory impacts may not appear too burdensome or costly. It is only when Commonwealth, state and locally based regulations are added to sector specific regulations that the impacts become clearer. The administrative and cost burdens to comply with and carry on business in the agricultural sector are significant. We've made it clear that we want a wholesale reduction in red tape and what we term green tape (environmental and planning approvals) that constantly distract farmers from their day to day business. The previous federal government introduced 21,000 new sets of regulations in the 6 years it held office. That is simply not sustainable. So we have welcomed the federal government's first 'Red Tape Repeal Day'. Yesterday, they announced the first tranche of a raft of repeals to rid the statute books of more than 10,000 pieces of legislation and regulations, what the Prime Minister rightly describes as a 'dead weight' on Australian businesses, community groups and households. And farms are businesses. The plan is to have two such 'Red Tape Repeal Days' each year. Among other things, this first one will remove some 8 000 pieces of outdated legislation dating from 1901 through to the 1960s. The government predicts these cuts will save the national economy more than $700 million a year, with an estimated $10 million in cost reductions for Tasmania. Simplification of the registration process for agricultural chemicals alone is estimated to save farmers $1.3 million. The Productivity Commission has estimated that removal of outdated rules and regulations could save Australians as much as $12 billion each year. That's money that could be invested in local economies, creating local jobs - which is vital for Tasmania. The incoming Hodgman government has been clear in its support of our platform to simplify life for farmers in Tasmania. We look forward to working with them to follow the Repeal Day precedent set by the federal government. In the Governor's speech, he mentioned the Government's intention to require annual audits of red and green tape, along with the direction that all new legislation be accompanied by regulation impact statements. This is critical to Tasmania's long-term future, to make it easier for business and industry to be competitive and create jobs. The Governor also mentioned international education being particularly important to our state and this is true. Many of these students are generally full fee paying students. Tasmania currently offers an affordable alternative to other Australian cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne, and it is very easy to get around. Tasmania is seen as a safe and secure destination where international students can live close to the university with easy transport, unlike other cities. However, I was concerned to read today that if the Federal Government's Budget proposal to deregulate university fees is approved by the Senate, it could be detrimental to our university as the cost of some degrees could rise significantly. One of the reasons the University of Tasmania attracted so many international students was because it had some of the lowest fees in Australia, but still delivered a quality education. It is also pleasing to see an additional graduate police recruitment course, as well as the possibility of regional high school communities extending their local high schools through to year 12. I am sure there are many young people living in isolated areas who wish to attain year 12 level, but because of distance, or the need to stay and help out at home, are often unable to move to cities where they can complete their higher education. I accept the comment by the honourable member for Hobart that for some the opportunity to move out of a small region is of benefit and character building. This does not remove that opportunity - it provides more students with options previously not available. This can only be of benefit to our young people and, hopefully in the future, will have an effect on our youth unemployment figures. It is so important for the Government to invest in our youth; they are our future. It is essential that they are not disengaged from our education system and that they are provided with training or employment. I applaud the Government for their priorities in their first year to make Tasmania attractive for investment, and to rebuild the Tasmanian economy to create jobs. Obviously a revitalised Tasmania with business confidence will create jobs and will bring investment to our shores. I was interested to hear that a new independent body to provide a coordinated approach to the planning and delivery of all major infrastructure in Tasmania will be put in place, including rail, major roads, energy and ports. However, I am always concerned about new bodies being formed, and hope that it will be productive and cost effective. I am sure we would all love, and none more than our train enthusiast member for Derwent, to see a fast train between Launceston and Hobart. While there would be a considerable cost, imagine the savings if northern members could travel to Hobart daily and return in the evening with no downtime, doing their work by iPad or computer on the trip. Tourism is a very important industry for Tasmania, and I look forward to the Government meeting its objective of increasing tourism numbers to 1.5 million by 2020. I certainly agree that it is important for our TT Line to carry as many tourists as possible, including grey nomads and those with caravans who wish to drive around our state and spend their money here. Bass Strait should be part of the National Highway. Certainly that large stretch of water puts this state at a real disadvantage when it comes to tourism and freight. We need to build on our competitive strengths in our traditional industries. I believe agriculture is a key growth sector in our state economy. There will be a growing demand for freight services to deliver increasing quantities of fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood, dairy and other products, so it is vitally important that our current and future freight needs are also given appropriate priority. With all the changes needed and promised, the Government faces a very difficult time ahead to address the major challenge, the state's poor fiscal position. I am sure the Budget will not be popular, but hard decisions will need to be made to bring us back to a level playing field. Concern exists with regard to some of our heritage estates and their futures. While we have to tighten our belts it is essential that we do not forget our past and let treasures such as Entally fall into disrepair. The previous government decided to drop Entally Estate from the portfolio of Parks and Wildlife Service and advertise for expressions of interest from the public to lease the property. Whilst I believe this Government may be in the process of considering a proposal - it might be a question on notice that I could ask the Leader in the coming days - it is felt that there must be a guarantee that places such as Entally Estate will be managed in accordance with heritage best practice, and that it remains freely accessible to the public, as has been the case for the last 64 years. While it is wonderful that places such as Woolmers, a Tasmanian property in Longford managed by a private family trust, is likely to receive federal and state grants for the establishment of an assigned convict-interpretation centre, it should be remembered that Entally Estate is a significant heritage site already owned by the Tasmanian Government, and hence the people of Tasmania. Without substantial future investment, Entally could deteriorate at an alarming rate and be lost to future generations of Australians. The result of the election made it very obvious that the people of Tasmania wanted a majority government. Tasmania has to appear to be open for business, and it has to be somewhere that people not only want to work and live, but are also able to work and live. I have four sons, two stepsons and five nieces in my family. Of those, three sons and a stepson and all my five nieces live and work interstate. It is a pretty bad percentage. While they could find work here, nine out of 11 close family members believe the work and lifestyle they enjoy in other states of Australia to be preferable. We need to find an edge to not only train our young, but also for them to want to stay, or at the very least, return. Unfortunately, once they meet a partner from another state the possibility of them returning lessens considerably. This is particularly sad, as family is very important, as is evidenced in many cultures. A family shares emotional bonds, common values, goals and responsibilities. Family members contribute significantly to the wellbeing of each other, be they grandparents, children, siblings, et cetera, and distance separation can cause depression and a sense of loneliness, particularly in the elderly, often leading to other illness. Therefore it is essential we have a vibrant state open for business, and looking for investment. We all need to work together for the good of our state, irrespective of political persuasions. We cannot continue to rob Peter to pay Paul - we need business confidence in our state and to get that we need investment in our state and a long-term strategic plan for the future. I hope this Government can live up to its promises and put Tasmania back on the map, for all our sakes.

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